Produced by Russ Russell at Parlour Studios, released on Dead Box Records and distributed by Cargo Records. Released on Friday 28 September 2018.
A lot of quality acts have emerged from Nottingham, England over the years: Sabbat (featuring now legendary producer Andy Sneap and eccentric vocalist Martin Walkyier), Lawnmower Deth, Fudge Tunnel, Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, my late dad and now Evil Scarecrow.
Chapter IV: Antartarctica—which, no matter how many times I type it, my spell-checker still flags up as a typo—is, as the name suggests, their fourth full-length offering.
According to vocalist Dr Hell this is an album of its time.
“We really wanted to push our musical boundaries and create a record that connects with the world we live in today. I think everyone can relate to the endeavours of a sandal-clad monk bravely exploring a sub-antarctic wasteland, on an unknown quest, enduring the extreme elements and battling his inner demons… and an ice slug who shoots frozen milk.
“Equally relatable is our track ‘Gus, Zag and the Turnip King’. The amount of stories you hear up the pub about staunch satanists accidentally summoning a two-headed turnip monster, instead of our lord Beelzebub, which then goes onto destroy the earth. Then, in a final desperate act of time travel, two people are genetically melded together through a space vortex, horribly mutated to become the aforementioned taproot. It’s a classic grandfather paradox tale that speaks to us all.”
But what of the music? Encyclopedia Metallum classifies Evil Scarecrow as somewhere between black metal and thrash metal. To my ear they are closer to the Cradle of Filth end of black metal fused with Devin Townsend’s particular brand of Ziltoid the Omniscient-influenced progressive metal.
“Skulls of our enemies” (track 1) opens with the sound of a jeering crowd, horns in the distance and a bell. (Standard stuff, then.) A fluttering guitar riff leads us into the song which I can only imagine will sound amazing live with the crowd chanting the chorus. It is pompous and grandiose—fantastic!
“Red Riding Hood” (track 2) rides above a pounding drum beat and bouncing bass riff and tells the everyday story of a retaliative attack on Mars as payback for a previous invasion. The song sways between the story-telling verses and the faster paced chorus, “Red is the colour of our blood, left as a hazard on the floor”.
“Way to die” (track 3) is a dark-sounding exploration into the various ways that you might find to die. As you might expect the suggestions get increasingly ridiculous. From being eaten by a cannibal, to taking too many headache pills, falling off a windowsill, combing your hair with a knife, to ‘electrodeath’ at the hands of a toaster in the bath.
Three tracks in and this is clearly an album to sit back and enjoy. It’s not background noise—this is the main event.
“The magician” (track 4) opens with operatic pomp. When the band takes over it stomps in fits and bursts while Dr Hell growls menacingly, the orchestra returning to build atmosphere. Around two-thirds of the way through, the song takes a simpler path to the end built around a rumbling bass riff and many a guitar arpeggio.
And now Dr Hell with the weather: “Moist”, begins track 5 “Hurricanado“. It is more of the same progressive and operatic black metal. I think the following lyrics sum up the song nicely. (This also happened to be their first single.)
The Tornado was invented in 1929 by Thomas Ornado. Spilling bees into a vat of compressed air, the mighty force of the tornado was released unto the world. Wreaking havoc upon the high seas, they hunger for human annihilation. When faced with the power of a land hurricane, these forces combine inexplicably to form nature’s most destructive force. A hurricanado… and an earthquake.From lyrics to “Hurricanado”
“Gus, Zag and the turnip king” (track 6) is perhaps the most Ziltoid-esque song on the album, and perhaps even my favourite song of 2018. It is utterly bonkers. I say that, but it actually makes more sense than Brexit!
Gus awoke in agony, his frail form trembling in pain
Looks across the corpses – there lies Zag, his dearest friend
Twisted and broken, but clearly still alive
Gus claws over the dead, to reach his dear friend’s side
Avoiding the gaze of the wrathful Turnip KingFrom lyrics for “Gus, Zag and the Turnip King”
‘Zag, my dearest friend. We have left just one thing.’
Gus readied the crystal, and his enchanted gavel
‘Prepare, my dearest friend. Prepare for time travel.’
Who doesn’t love a song about two best friends time-travelling to battle the bulbous taproot monarch but in the process “their bodies meld into a single being / They emerge in through the light, as a walking, talking turnip”?
“Polterghost” (track 7) is the second single taken from the album. As you can see from the video below it’s your everyday tale of a ghost. And the lyrics mention former-Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding.
Musically speaking, it’s more of the same. It’s grand and dramatic, and utterly compelling.
The haunting start to “Cosmos goth moth gong” (track 8) quickly gives way to a pulsing and chugging riff that accompanies a chant of “cosmos goth moth gong”. It’s about a goth moth who gets bored and decides to “have another go on [his] gong”.
Disappointingly I didn’t hear a gong on the track.
“The ballad of Brother Pain” (track 9) brings the pace down with a gentle and rather beautiful and emotional ballad that asks the very understandable question, “Brother Pain, why did you go to Antartarctica?
The coldest place on earth is no place for a monk”
Suddenly, the song ends and…
“Antartarctica” (track 10) opens with a chilling wind effect, creaking wood and a cello, and then… well, it’s an epic. It makes “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” look like a Mr Man book. It has the word ‘vasoconstriction’ in it; I think you would be pushed to find the word ‘vasoconstriction’ in any of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s works.
And a giant slug. It has a giant slug in it.
Like I said, it’s an epic. It lasts for over ten minutes.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and they are absolutely right. When I first looked at it, I assumed that this would be some second-rate power metal release in the vein of HammerFall. Oh, how wrong I was.
This is just brilliant! It is entertaining, it is amusing, it is played beautifully and with such conviction. This album is the perfect antidote to the madness in the world right now, and I love it.
If you enjoy Devin Townsend’s projects, then I fully expect you to enjoy this. If you have even a fleeting interest in prog or black metal or thrash or simply want to support fabulous British bands, then I implore you to check out this album. Find a space, plug in your headphones and listen to this album for the next 48 minutes. You will not be disappointed.
I know this is not the greatest album in the world; it is not the most original. But damn! it is great, great fun. And for that I have to give it full marks. It really has made my week (that and being offered a new job… but obviously, mostly this).
Review score: 100%
BJF Media contacted me inviting me to preview Evil Scarecrow’s forthcoming album, which I was delighted about.
I have no connections to either BJF Media or Evil Scarecrow. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool.
Many thanks to Judith from BJF Media, and to Evil Scarecrow for continuing to create fabulously entertaining and British music.